Thursday, June 22, 2006

SBC Debate Tame Compared to Others

I am a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and it’s not without its problems. Last week, some 11,000 messengers gathered in Greensboro to discuss and debate issues relating to our denomination’s future.

First and foremost, we disagreed as to who should be our President. In the past, a small group of influential and esteemed pastors would confer and forward a nomination to the convention. No one knows exactly how many of them confer or who they all are. It is widely perceived they are our denomination’s mega-church pastors of the South. At the forefront would be Dr. Jerry Vines, newly retired pastor of First Baptist, Jacksonville, Florida. The proposed candidate has usually been introduced or announced at his annual Bible conference. We could also surmise the group includes Jack Graham, Steve Gaines, Paige Patterson, Johnny Hunt and a few others. In any event, the group presumed upon the graces of Southern Baptist footsoldiers and nominated Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist, Springdale, Arkansas. Some hawkish eyes noticed that the church gives only 0.27% to the Cooperative Program and a war was on. An informal coalition of the non-establishment sect and the CP loyalists and the younger leaders launched a counter nomination of Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist, Taylors, South Carolina. Some of those sects, however, became suspicious of innuendos regarding Page’s affiliations with some moderates during the theological battle of the 1980s and launched a third nomination of Jerry Sutton, pastor of Twin Rivers Baptist, Nashville, Tennessee. When the smoke cleared, Page had been surprisingly elected on the first ballot, receiving more votes than the other two candidates combined—a clear majority.

Messengers debated a reinsertion of “10%” as a goal into the Cooperative Program Task Force’s report; we differed on a resolution on alcohol consumption; we had a slight tiff over whether to refer a motion by embattled IMB trustee Wade Burleson to the IMB; and I could list a few others.

However, we did not debate the issue of homosexuality as did the Episcopal Church or the doctrine of the Trinity as did the Presbyterian Church. In spite of our differences, we Southern Baptists share a commitment to the clear truths of God’s Word.

The Episcopal Church (America) is a part of the world-wide Anglican Communion and is (rightly so) in hot water for their unbiblical stance regarding homosexuality. In August of 2003, they ordained Gene Robinson as bishop, an open homosexual who abandoned his family for his lover. The broader and more Biblically insightful Anglican church reprimanded the American branch through the Windsor Report.

This past weekend, Episcopalians were embroiled in whether to honor the broader Anglican call to conform to a more scriptural understanding of homosexuality. They refused to honor that request and elected Katharine Jefferts Schori, a bishop from Nevada, to their denomination’s top spot of presiding bishop. She responded to a question in an interview with CNN whether it was a sin to be homosexual:

"I don't believe so. I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each of us comes into the world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us. "Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people, and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of their own gender."
Upon her election, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, Rowan Williams, sent his greetings and wrote: “We are continuing to pray for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church as it confronts a series of exceptionally difficult choices.” But how “exceptionally difficult” is it to embrace the clear Biblical teaching regarding the sin of homosexuality?

What happened in Greensboro among Southern Baptists was a struggle. But the struggle was over methodology, not heresy. I too pray for the Episcopal Church, but not as Archbishop Williams does. I pray for their repentance and return to Biblical fidelity.

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